Way back in September, I asked visitors to Rufus on Fire to predict which teams would make the NBA playoffs. Last season, fans correctly predicted 13/16 teams, and this season, they repeated that performance, correctly picking 13/16.
For the second year in a row, the fans chose the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, but both teams fell short, beaten out by the Milwaukee Bucks and our own Charlotte Bobcats. In the West, the New Orleans Hornets fell out of the race early, and the Oklahoma City Thunder took a big leap forward.
As I noted before the season:
I suspect this exercise is much more difficult in the NFL and MLB than it is in the NBA, and I think that's a bad thing. It makes the regular season something of a formality. It's competitive enough that teams can't coast completely and make the postseason, but teams like the Spurs seem to have realized that they have enough talent on hand to chill out after a certain point in the season.
You can't do that in the other sports until you're assured of a spot, which only happens very late in the season. In the NBA, a bunch of teams are reasonably assured of the playoffs by the All Star break.
Does that bother you at all? The corollary, of course, is that in any given year, a small, finite, number of teams are true title contenders. We're watching an "era of anti-parity" that, inevitably, leads to nihilism on the single-season level. We can name half the teams in the league right now and be 95% sure none of them will win the NBA championship next season. Fanhood of teams not in that elite class of title contenders is an ongoing exercise in patience, waiting for the season (not day, week, or month) when we might get to experience a real chase.